Las Vegas A-Z
Distributed for Columbia College Chicago Press
With an Introduction by Johanna Drucker
Established in 1996 to preserve Las Vegas’s underappreciated neon heritage, the Neon Boneyard houses many of the city's historic casino signs on a three-acre site at the edge of the city. The core of the collection of unrestored signage came from the pioneering Young Electric Sign Company, one of the first to produce neon signs in the area; but, in recent years, it has grown through donations from businesses and individuals who appreciate the key role played by neon in the growth of Las Vegas.
Through Judy Natal’s photographs, the Neon Boneyard becomes a dynamic archaeological site that brings Vegas’s past to life in startling ways. The towering figure of Mr. O’Lucky becomes a home for the homeless, while the crumpled sign of a wedding chapel reflects the faded dreams of a lost paradise. Through such juxtapositions of success and failure, of past and present, Neon Boneyard: Las Vegas A–Z returns us to an earlier image of Vegas, suffused with the warm, commercial glow of neon, lighting the desert and inventing modern nightlife.
“Smart artists pick up where their predecessors stopped. I think of Judy Natal's project as a further exploration of Walker Evans's record of America's increased need to narrate itself in the mid-1930s: restaurant and hotel names, road signs and gas stations, billboards. The triumph of language over landscape is now complete, with Las Vegas as vanguard and champion, making the distinction of the dancer from the dance even more difficult than Yeats imagined.”